Food as a reward

I am not sure how universal this is, but it is a feeling that really struggle with. For me, one of the drivers of my anorexia is that I have associated food with reward. According to most people that I talk to, this is not a common association. Most people seem to consider food as a tool or a means.

On its own, linking food and reward might not be terrible. Coupled with a belief that I am unworthy of any sort of reward and/or a perverse love of pursuing the reward rather than the reward itself, it is a problem.

This all leads to very unpleasant emotions after any meal. Besides the discomfort I feel knowing that there is food in my body and mentally adjusting to the fact that I consumed calories, I get angry at myself for having a reward and I feel empty. The anger is because I have given myself a reward of which I am not deserving and the emptiness is because I now have nothing to look forward to.

Not only is it easier not to eat, it is actually fulfilling. It is easier because I avoid the discomfort and anger and it is fulfilling because I continue to have something to look forward to. When you have no sense of self-worth and generally nothing that excites and motivates you, these are powerful reasons not to eat.

Life goes on

Life goes on and today I am struggling with the ongoing, inevitable march toward mortality and infinity. These thoughts inevitably lead me to panic attacks and last night was no exception. It was a tough, tough night but I think that today was harder. I have been feeling very disconnected from life and the world and very selfish, defeated and scattered.

I am back on my eating routine, but it’s been brutal. Let’s see what we can do for the rest of the night.

Selfishness

Both recovery and illness are selfish. As someone who struggles with OCD, depression, and anorexia, my thoughts can be incredibly regimented and strict. That leads to behavior that is equally as constricted and prescribed. Planning all my trips to the gym, the exact times that I will eat, what deviations are allowed from my habits, etc, requires a pathological amount of selfishness.

At the same time, recovery is selfish, too. I feel like I am required to focus exclusively on getting the right amount of nutrition, going to see the doctor at the right time, etc.

The problem is that, in part, my mental illness comes from a fundamental belief that I am a terrible person. Part of that negative self image is because I feel like I am incredibly selfish. In other words, it is a negative feedback cycle. That cycle is made worse by the fact that I am worried that my recovery will let me be truly myself and that I am, at my core, a selfish person.

These past few days I was able to travel with my mom to visit her sister who is recovering from a series of terrible strokes. It was humbling to remember that there are other people out there who are really sick, scared and fragile and who need their family, friends and faith for help. It was also terrifying because it reminds me just how selfish I really am.

If you are feeling the same way, let me say this: recovery is selfish. Those around you who want to help you recover desperately want you to be selfish because they cannot wait to see the real, amazing, awesome and healthy you. So, be selfish in your recovery and remember others at those moments when the illness wants to knock you back.

Feeling fat

Feeling fat. That is such an interesting phrase. I don’t know how “normal” people respond to a statement like that, but as an anorexic “fat” has a very specific, uncomfortable sensation. Uncomfortable is an understatement.

I can feel fat. I feel as if the parts of my face around my mouth are flabby. I can feel my stomach hanging over my belt. I can feel the fat around my fingers and in my hands.

I can feel fat. I feel lazy. I feel useless. I feel slobish. I feel like there is no reason to exist. I feel regret — regret over the decision to get on a track to recovery, the decision to eat my last meal, the decision not to starve myself, the decision to sleep last night, the decision to wake up, the decision to have that piece of gum, the decision to have that cup of coffee. When I feel fat, nothing goes unquestioned.

I wish that fat were not something I could feel. At the least, I wish that fat were just a fleeting physical sensation that did not translate into an emotional reaction.

Responding to stress

I’ve always found it interesting to “observe” the way I react to stress. I don’t know whether this is a universal response, but when I am stressed my first reaction is to return to comforting response mechanisms. As an anorexic, my response is to restrict, cut, and/or workout too much. None of those seems helpful when I am on the path to recovery. I need to work on building alternative coping mechanisms so that I learn that destructive behavior is not the only way to handle stressful situations.

I think that there are constructive coping mechanisms (making lists, fighting procrastination, time management) and comforting coping mechanisms (breathing exercises, yoga, taking time off) that will help me deal with stress in a positive way. Building those skills is vital for me to continue on my path to recovery.

Getting back on track

Yesterday and today have been a real struggle. I have been committed to a plan to eat three very small meals (yogurt and protein bars) three times a day. Until yesterday I had not slipped a single time in almost two weeks.

Yesterday was a set back and today I do not want to get back on track.

Writing this has helped. Remember, every day is a challenge but you can do it!